A Russian court found two LGBT activists guilty of promoting “non-traditional” relationships under the nation’s “gay propaganda law” Tuesday, the first time anyone has been convicted and fined under the controversial federal policy, according to The Moscow Times.
Nikolai Alexeyev, the founder of Moscow Pride, and Yaroslav Yevtushenko were each fined 4,000 rubles — or $120 — for holding a banner reading “Gay propaganda doesn’t exist. People don’t become gay, people are born gay” near a library in the northern city of Arkhangelsk. Specifically, the court found the men guilty of violating Part 1 of Article 6.21 of the Code of Administrative Offenses, which prohibits the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relations” among minors.
The law, strongly supported by Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been criticized across the globe and has led to boycotts of Russian products and campaigns to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
“It is the first in the history of Russian court decisions on prosecution for promoting non-traditional sexual relations under the new federal law,” Alexeyev said after leaving the court, and he pledged to appeal the case in the coming days in hopes of bringing the question before Constitutional Court of Russia — the nation’s highest court — and even to the European Court of Human Rights.
Prior to Tuesday’s ruling, fines have only been imposed under local laws. St. Petersburg enacted its own “gay propaganda law” in March 2012, and other major cities, like Kostroma, Arkhangelsk, and Ryazan, adopted similar laws ahead of the federal policy passed in June, according to the paper.
In a separate ruling released Tuesday, the Constitutional Court dismissed Alexeyev’s legal challenge to the St. Petersburg propaganda law. The activist argued the city’s law allows discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation, but in its ruling, the court sided with the Kremlin’s interests to “protect children from information, propaganda and campaigns that can harm their health and moral and spiritual development,” the court said in its opinion. The court also said that the law is not discriminatory, because the propaganda ban applies to everyone in the city equally, regardless of sexual orientation.
In May, Alexeyev was fined for violating the St. Petersberg law after he was arrested for displaying a poster with a quote by famous Soviet-era actress, Faina Ranevskaya, reading “Homosexuality is not a perversion, unlike grass hockey or ice ballet.” He was fined 5,000 rubles ($150).
Some have questioned if Alexeyev is helping the LGBT rights movement there or hurting it. He opposes the boycotts of Russian products and the Sochi Olympics and has attacked LGBT Russians for seeking what he deems unwarranted political asylum in the U.S. Additional questions were raised after he claimed “… Russia needs to re-criminalize homosexuality to make lazy Russian gays fight for their rights finally” on Twitter in August.
Alexeyev declined to comment.